Advancing fires simulation saves time, money and lives.
By Patrick Clarke, MTI Correspondent
You would think using artillery would be simple. Just point the tube and light the fuse. That was true for our forefathers, but the modern day warfighter faces a much more complicated system. What if the target is out of sight or moving? Is there a sandstorm or heavy winds? Environmental factors must be taken into account. Artillery support is needed. Call for fire has several components:
- Observer identification
- Warning order
- Target location
- Description of target
- Method of engagement
- Method of fire and control including choice of munitions and fuse
Target location alone is not simple. There are four scenarios:
- Polar Plot
- Laser Polar Plot. The fire direction control (FDC) soldier needs to know as quickly as possible if the observer is using a laser. Although the data are still polar, the backup computer system uses a different format from the fire mission
- Shift From a Known Point
There’s more, but you get the idea. Since learning on the job is not a good idea, training is needed. Virtual simulation (VS) has improved warfighter performance and is cost effective. Several companies working with the military have taken on the task of fires training.
Shannon D. Judnic, G7/chief, Mission Simulation Center, Fires Center of Excellence noted, “The first place leaders and soldiers are introduced to simulations is at the Fires Center of Excellence (FCoE) here at Fort Sill, Okla. The immersive training allows the leader or soldier to feel they are out in the field when they are actually just in a simulated environment that replicates being in the field.” Judnic continued, “They also have the benefit of using simulated military equipment (SME) which allows students to experience the same fit, form and function of actual tactical devices. The SME cost saver benefits include lower cost than
using the actual device and all actual devices go to the operational force for their use at homestation or deployed.” Judnic reviewed the advantages of VS, such as the fact that repetition involved develops “muscle memory.” Cost savings for ammunition and fuel alone saved approximately $104 million in fiscal year 2016. More importantly VS training allows the soldiers to learn from mistakes without severe repercussions.
Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim) has developed a complete VS training package that can also be used for certification and retraining to sharpen skills. The package is called Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3) that is quite comprehensive and is constantly being improved. VBS3 allows a user to simulate targeting, provide fire support, counter air threats, interdict enemy operations, conduct strategic attacks, and assess the results of employment. A user can build larger geo-specific terrains, involve more participants, and create more complex scenarios to meet unit mission objectives.
“Our newest version of (v3.9.1) helps enable more realistic nighttime operations training and close air support (CAS) coordination training exercises,” said John Givens, president, BISim. Those new features include:
- Targeting pods with infrared (IR) lasers that include easy-to-use slew to grid feature on optics
- A ROVER video feed of the pod view, and the ability to configure users in aircraft
- Updated IR strobes that can be attached to any object, with selectable flash rates
- Added new waypoints for easier control of the AC-130 and easier creation of strafing runs with aircraft in VBS3
- Added grenade-launchable IR illumination flares for practice using them. For training administrators, we have made IR flares available via editor object for practicing when and where to call for support
- Marker lights in VBS3 are now synced and can be displayed over a dedicated server and can be recorded and displayed in after action review (AAR)
Givens outlined a VBS3 AAR technology “which can record the events as they occur through a timeline. The AAR can then be replayed and observed from a variety of angles or views (even enemy viewpoints), to inspect and discover how events unfolded during the scenario from a very narrow scope up to the overall mission.” He continued “The AAR also provides 2D views, showing how units acted and maneuvered while conducting their mission, and can show how all units within the area of operations conducted in parallel or response to any set of events. Finally, the AAR provides basic statistics to include: how far units traveled, how many rounds fired, and the number of friendly, enemies, and civilians injured or killed.” VBS3 is in use by the U.S. military and our allies including NATO’s Joint Force Training Centre, based in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Looking toward the future Givens mentioned resolution improvement in VR goggles for long-range targets. “Lightfield technology is a new approach to augmented reality. It isn’t available yet. It will make the augmented reality experience more realistic and visually more impressive.” The technology “Uses lightfields instead of 3d software simulating depth of field and lighting, the images are projected into the eye in such a way that the human eye can focus on virtual object as they would a real object. This means that the virtual object blends into the real world better than current augmented reality approaches.”
Another player in fires training simulation is Raytheon. The company helped design and develop a way to network and blend live, virtual and constructive training for the U.S. Army. Their approach allows multiple, large units, geographically separated by hundreds or thousands of kilometers, to train together in a common virtual operating environment. For example; Raytheon developed a solution that allows for geo-relocation of live trainers in real time. Actual units conducting live training in Romania can appear on a huge simulated map next to units conducting live training in Germany. That allows for scenarios to be written that can train units together in the same virtual battle space. Raytheon’s current system can tie in multiple training locations and can train with up to 100,000 live and simulated trainers.
Called the Joint Multinational Readiness Center Instrumentation System (JMRC-IS), their training system consists of both a fixed and mobile suite of sensors, cameras, training instrumentation, communications and computer networks working together to create a blended training environment.
According to Eric W. Nantz, European Region operations chief at Raytheon Company, “… soldiers in the field (artillery, observers, leaders, etc.) perform their task exactly as required in combat operations (setting the artillery position, fire coordination, spotting, images, etc.). The tactical engagement simulation gear and the instrumentation system, combined with constructive and virtual models, provides the integration with mission command systems needed to run the combat training in this simulated environment.”
Nantz continued, “The unit participating in the exercise is actually bringing their artillery pieces—and they will have to go through their firing procedures during the event. This exercise is aimed at training the entire indirect fire control system, up to the brigade commander. The brigade CO has to make real time decisions about the prioritization of indirect fire assets and about artillery utilization.”
One of the important facets of this training is the Mobile Instrumentation System (MIS) capability. This allows Raytheon to extend the system itself to multinational locations. JMRCIS has an exportable Combat Training Center Instrumentation System capability that allows a simulation to be connected to the terrain at the JMRC in Hohenfels/Grafenwöhr, Germany, to anywhere in the world through the use of the deployable equipment that connects back to Hohenfels. Raytheon’s expeditionary equipment can also be deployed in a stand-alone configuration at any training location.
Raytheon recently used JMRC-IS to help the U.S. Army in partnership with NATO conduct exercise Swift Response 16. Ten NATO nations participated. The event demonstrated that JMRC has the capability to integrate live training into the virtual, constructive and gaming models across multiple countries.
Fidelity Technologies’ approach to fires training is based on vertically integrated corporate strategy. Bobby Wise, business development manager, simulation and training systems at Fidelity explained, “what this means is that we are able to have total control over the direction of our product line by minimizing or eliminating dependencies on outside vendors. Nearly every aspect of the joint fires solution can be constructed by Fidelity. This includes an image generation (IG) system called FidViewEX that was purpose-built from the ground up for joint fires training.” Wise went on to say, “Having our own IG, database team, and visual team gives us many advantages. We are able to leverage government funded terrain data and ingest it into our systems giving the customer geo-specific terrains for mission rehearsal exercises. We can also rapidly tailor our models to exacting customer specifications so that each customer gets the exact solution they desire.” Fidelity is fully accredited under the Joint Terminal Attack Controller Memorandum of Agreement (JTAC MOA).
The company designs and builds their own simulated military devices to replicate the exact form, fit and function of the operational equipment. Fidelity also developed a tracking system for their devices that provides a greater degree of accuracy for tracking the student’s position and gaze orientation during the training.
Fidelity’s team of subject matter experts lead product design and perform testing and quality assurance functions. This team consists of combat veterans with backgrounds in all aspects of joint fires (fire direction control, JTAC, artillery and aviation). Wise noted,” Because product development is subordinate to our subject matter expert team, we are able to create products that truly address the challenges of training. Our weapons effects are accurate to the size and delivery of each type of ordnance utilized (naval, air, and surface—based fires). Our aircraft delivery profiles accurately replicate the tactics, techniques and procedures for weapon release utilized by actual fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.” Wise went on to say, ”We cover all the aspects of what a forward observer or JTAC will require for certification/qualification. We start with providing a detailed view of the battlefield that will allow the observer to conduct a terrain sketch and then move through all terminal learning objectives of a joint fires observer, including the execution of fire plans (schedule of fires on a timeline).”
Fidelity covers the target location methods mentioned in the introduction. In addition to grid, polar, and shift they include laser polar and laser adjust. The company also has the capability to mass fires using multiple firing units on a single target. Their system can set the targets in positions that offer obscurations that have to be taken into consideration by the trainee (hills or buildings that are on the gun target line).
Fidelity’s systems also take into account environmental factors in targeting and execution. Wind will affect smoke obscuration (direction and speed), and clouds (height and density) will affect aircraft visibility. Fidelity’s weather effects include rain, snow fog, and sandstorms that can be set globally on the terrain, or localized.
In addition to selling their products directly, Fidelity also provides fee for service rental systems and instructors. While fixed-site training systems were the most common, Wise believes, “having the flexibility to offer a training service package where we come to you for a specific period of time with systems, instructors and operators makes good sense. It allows units greater flexibility to receive training on range locations during training exercises and allows procurement agencies more avenues to get the right degree of training to a greater number of end-users without costly infrastructure requirements.”
Fidelity offers comprehensive after action evaluation (AAE) packages. In addition to recording every action that the trainee takes, communications are recorded, every button press made on virtual or simulated military devices is registered, and forms received or filled out are also recorded.
Fidelity includes a feature called during action replay. At any time, the Instructor can rewind the exercise to replay what just happened and reinforce teaching points, then enter back into the exercise. A time-line is also shown where the instructor can make annotations.
During the AAE, events are recorded, and at the conclusion a portable package (take home package) can be created for replay on any computer. This allows the trainee an opportunity to review the exercise and aids in understanding their role in fires
Looking toward the future, Wise cautioned, “Mobile and wireless technologies and cloud storage also pose security issues for protecting data from malicious attacks. With any innovation, the challenges to safeguard new capabilities will take time to solve.”
Battlespace Simulations Inc. (BSI) teams with other companies to take a holistic approach. BSI partners with Quantadyn and MetaVR. Gary DeYoung, BSI president commented, “Our flagship product, MACE [Modern Air Combat Environment], is used in a wide variety of training systems all accredited by the Joint Fire Support Executive Steering Committee. MACE is a software application that provides what is called CGF/SAF—computer generated/semi-automated forces. DeYoung continued, “MACE-based fires training systems include the recently awarded Joint Terminal Control Training and Rehearsal System, primed by Quantadyn, the Advanced Air National Guard JTAC Training System, also led by Quantadyn, the Combined Arms Virtual Environment for the U.S. Navy as well roughly 24 desktop systems spread around Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command.” DeYoung explained, “All of these systems use both MACE and MetaVR’s Virtual Reality Scene Generator (VRSG). MACE does all the scenario/entity generation and physics models, and VRSG generates the terrain and visual models.
The BSI perspective also differs from that of other companies. DeYoung clarified, “…game-based systems, while certainly capable of providing value, are not well suited for simulating highly contested battlespaces. BSI’s background is in electronic warfare; in fact all undergraduate combat systems officers (CSOs) in the USAF train with our software in-flight on the T-1A CSO aircraft.”
DeYoung believes in their holistic approach as opposed to what he calls a “deep and narrow” route. DeYoung continued, “Our customers don’t want to hook up five CGF/SAFs to their simulator in order to generate compelling scenarios. This is what happens when you go the ‘deep and narrow’ route. When our customers introduce MACE into their environments, they quickly find they can start reducing the number of CGF/SAF applications they’re using, often down to just MACE.” MACE provides after action evaluation and complies with the Distributed Interactive Simulation standards, and is also one of the few commercial CGF/SAF programs with a certification for Combat Air Forces Distributed Missions Operations. DeYoung foresees an upcoming challenge as 5th generation platforms come into play replacing older mechanically scanned radar systems.
Bagira Systems has also been advancing fires simulation. Their product JOint-fire BattleSpace Simulator (JOBSS) is based on an advanced scenario generator, which enables the simulation of complex virtual scenarios. Their generator also displays accurate environmental databases and technical features. Their image generator enables a user to simulate the battlefield as realistically as possible in the context of any given scenario. JOBSS also incorporates the user’s SME items to provide the trainees with realistic training conditions. The JOBSS system offers full connectivity with the howitzer crew trainer system. This option enables comprehensive training of the entire fire support circle—from the target identification stage through the actual firing by the artillery batteries.
Bagira’s JOBSS system can be operated in several configurations:
- JOBSS group – used by the artillery school, in which the instructor provides the missions and follows up the performance of each trainee.
- JOBSS Head Quarters – is configured as a full scale brigade task force joint fire center, training the full fire support cycle.
- Mini JOBSS-Compact – with the full training capabilities, for one-on-one training any time anywhere. It is laptop operation based, packed with generic SME and includes connection to several working docks for the same scenario.
- JOBSS Mobile – a mobile training simulator that deploys anywhere within a very short time.
The mobile version of the JOBSS system is mounted on a specialized vehicle and enables field training of fire support elements by simulating the video sources and generating virtual scenarios for the training session.
Oren Sheinfeld, vice president marketing and sales, Bagira Systems added, “All of the fires tasks are included; from the first steps of mission preparations through the stages of target locating, all the way to the point of fire operating. The system enables, at the end of the process, a full AAR of each stage along the way, including feedback and grade to each trainee.” Sheinfeld concluded, “Bagira will continuously develop, improve and provide value-added products and services to our clients, for the purpose of optimizing their mission readiness.”
As you can see fires simulation is a complex task. Our forefathers would be amazed.